Australian court halts gas drilling after complaint by indigenous group
Sydney, Australia, Sep 21 (EFE).- An Australian court ordered Wednesday the oil and gas company Santos Ltd. to halt gas drilling in the Timor Sea for failing to consult with the traditional owners of the area, following a lawsuit by an indigenous group.
Judge Mordecai Bromberg of the Federal Court of Australia gave Santos two weeks to secure the drilling operations and put a stop to the Barossa gas project, worth AU$4.7 billion ($3.2 billion).
The verdict came in a response to lawsuit filed in June 2022 by an indigenous group of the remote Tiwi Islands in northern Australia.
This development also sets a precedent for future cases about consultations with indigenous communities and granting of permits to projects.
The plaintiffs expressed concern that the project Barossa would pose a threat to their food sources, the environment and their cultural and spiritual customs.
Moreover, they also underlined the absence of consultations regarding the project, a necessary requirement in Australia in areas where the indigenous groups have customary rights.
On Mar.22, Santos had received the approval of The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) to drill up to eight gas production wells in the Barossa Field, situated 120 kilometers (74.5 miles) north of the Tiwi Islands.
Judge Bromberg ruled that having failed to fulfill the requirements of consultation with the communities, the decision of NOPSEMA to allow the drilling was to be annulled, which implies that Santos needs to halt all work on the project.
Santos said in a statement on Wednesday that “the drilling activities will be suspended pending a favorable appeal outcome or the approval of a fresh environmental plan.”
The company added that it had engaged with the Tiwi Land Council and Northern Land Council, representing the traditional owners, about the proposed project, before NOPSEMA accepted the environmental plan.
The project, in which the Japanese company JERA and the South Korean SK Group are also involved, includes a gas pipeline from the gas field in the Timor Sea to an existing liquefied natural gas facility in the Darwin village. EFE